September 11, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Swinging Strike % Revisited Leaders Edition

Print Friendly

R.A. Dickey, SP, New York Mets


The guys on this list range from “expected competence” to “shockingly disappointing.” It’s a veritable smorgasbord of pitching. You’ve got guys who have frustrated fantasy GMs for years mixed in with guys that have been as consistent as pitchers are capable of and everything in-between on a list of only ten names. This is where swinging strike percentage gets interesting. It’s easy to write why  Kevin Correia should be avoided, but it’s not nearly as easy to explain why Francisco Liriano isn’t as dangerous to own as he seems and he’s leading the league in swinging strike percentage.

Some men lead, while others lag behind. These men are those that have blazed a trail in the area of making batters screw themselves into the ground in this week’s leaders edition of Leaders and Laggards.


1. Francisco Liriano 13.5%
2. Cole Hamels 12.5%
3. Edwin Jackson 12.3%
4. R.A. Dickey 12.3%
5. Jeff Samardzjia 12.1%
6. Max Scherzer 11.9%
7. Matt Moore 11.9%
8. Tim Lincecum 11.7%
9. Yu Darvish 11.5%
10. C.C. Sabathia 11.4%

Francisco Liriano leads the league in swinging strike percentage. He also leads the league in frustratingly mediocre stats(not an actual stat). It’s clear that whatever issues Liriano is going through, it’s not a stuff problem. Liriano can still miss bats. It’s more than likely a between the ears problem. The K’s(9.66 K/9) and the missed bats are nice, but they also come with a 5.25 BB/9. Yuck. Liriano is clearly no longer the “Force of Nature” level pitcher he was as a rookie, but he could still be competent if he could cut down on his walks. There aren’t any red flags in his batted ball data and his velocity is up from last year. He’s a name who could be intriguing in next year’s drafts depending on where he ends up.

Cole Hamels is fine to own for this year or next. He’s pitching to his career averages on most of his batted ball stats and he’s never had a season with a swinging strike percentage under 11.0%. There’s not much to say other than Cole is essentially a metronome from a fantasy baseball perspective. He’s a high draft pick because he’s safe. Use Hamels with confidence, now and tomorrow.

Edwin Jackson’s on this list? How is Cole Hamels sandwiched between these two painfully frustrating pitchers? The problem is that EJax is enjoying a career year with a 8.08 K/9 and missing a ton of bats. He’s also posting a career high 62.3% first pitch strike percentage. It’s a lot easier to rack up K’s when a pitcher gets ahead in the count. His batted ball data indicates he’s been really lucky. His BABIP is almost 40 points lower than his career average, but this is simply the regression to the mean that was likely to happen after a career high .330 BABIP last year. EJax could have some value next year if he can stay on the good side of the luck dragon. 

R.A. Dickey is really, really hard to evaluate using sabrmetrics. His current season is the outlier. There was nothing in his track record to indicate that he was capable of this type of season. He’s missing bats(12.3% swinging strike %), getting ahead of hitters(62.8% first pitch strike %) and getting hitters to offer at bad pitches(34.1% o-swing %). Sharps will probably stay away from Dickey in next year’s drafts because he’s going to be really, really hard to project. Is this simply a career year from a journeyman or is it the start of a trend? It’s impossible to say. The very nature of the knuckleball lends itself to unpredictability. He’s probably a stay away unless he comes a huge discount.

There’s a lot to like in Jeff Samardzjia. Let’s call him by his nickname(Shark) from here on out to keep my keyboard from bursting into flames. The Shark surprised a lot of people by striking out more than a batter per inning(9.27 K/9) and keeping his BB/9 under 3.00(2.89). The plate discipline numbers indicate that it’s legit. He missed a lot of bats, got ahead of hitters(60.2% first strike %) and got swings outside the zone(34.1% o-swing %). The innings bump is a concern(88 to 174), but he should be safe to draft next year. There aren’t any red flags in his batted ball data. The only concern is an injury risk. Young pitchers with big innings bumps tend to get hurt, but the Cubs appeared to be reasonably responsible with Shark this year.

Max Scherzer is on this list? The league leader in K’s misses bats? Really? Too bad he’s stuck on a team with an AL high .310 BABIP. Scherzer is scary good and he’s stuck on a team with horrific defense. Scherzer would be a Cy Young contender and leading teams to championships if he was even on a team with a league average defense. Monitor Detroit closely this off-season. They should(must) try to improve their team defense this off-season.

Matt Moore struggled early in the year, but is actually turning in a solid Freshman year in the Rays rotation. He misses bats(11.9% swinging strike %) and gets ahead of hitters(60.5% first pitch strike %), but he doesn’t get a lot of swings at pitches outside the zone(28.0% o-swing %). The 3.88 BB/9 is a concern, but it’s not awful for a pitcher in his first full season. Moore should be fine to draft next year.

Wasn’t Tim Lincecum supposed to be washed up? Why is he on this list with all these guys who are supposed to be awesome? The problems with Lincecum this year are twofold. First, his GB:FB ratio is essentially the same as always, but he’s giving up more homers than ever(13.0% HR:FB ratio). The second problem is that his BB/9 has increased every year since 2010. Another issue is that he’s just come off the worst month of his really mediocre 2012 season. Is there any doubt that Timmy Lince is working through an undisclosed injury? This is straight out of the Roger Clemens Crappy Season playbook. Just wait and see what kind of news about Lincecum will start leaking out of San Francisco this off-season. When reports of partially torn rotator cuffs or frayed labrums start popping up as blurbs at the end of news stories.

The big concern with Yu Darvish isn’t from anything you’ll find on a stat sheet. The concern should be health. Starting pitchers making the jump from the NPB typically have competent seasons in their first year in Major League Baseball. The second season is when the wear and tear of a 162 game season+playoffs+years of arm abuse in Japan set in. None of Darvish’ swing stats or batted ball data are terribly interesting. Especially since we don’t have any track record to look back on at the major league level. The only number that’s of any concern is his 4.51 BB/9. That’s a lot of walks for a guy who routinely posted walk rates in the NPB that were less than half of what he’s currently rocking. Draft with caution in 2013.

2012 will be the first year that CC Sabathia will have thrown less than 30 starts since 2006. That’s a concern for a guy who will be entering his age 33 season next year. His swing data is similar to his career averages and there is no indication that he’s lost anything. He’s still missing bats(11.4% swinging strike %), getting ahead of hitters(62.2% first pitch strike %) and getting hitters to chase(34.8% o-swing %). The only concern is that years of a heavy workload will start taking their toll on Captain Cheeseburger(h/t to the artist formerly known as Bat Girl). There is no statistical reason to stay away from CC. He’s even been a little unlucky on balls in the air with a 13.7 HR:FB ratio(his career average is 8.8%). There are reasons to stay away from CC for health reasons. Be careful next year.


You must be logged in to post a comment.